Up, Down, Left, Right, and All That Nonsense

People speaking of other politically continually speak about left and right, yet these terms are basically meaningless. In the US, Mr Groseclose unlike so many others, bothers to define what he means, which by the time he gets down ends up arrives at a meaning only perhaps might only coincidentally mean the same thing that you think of when these terms are used. His method of determining right/left is political, being derived purely by analysing mathematically voting patterns of the right and left party members in Congress. The proto-typical examples of right and left come from the WWII era, whereas the Hitler-led Nazi party (National Socialists) were called “far right” and the Stalin-led Marxist USSR is identified as “far left”. What distinguishes these groups? Both were autocracies dominated by the personality of one man. Both explicitly used government powers to dominate all sectors of society. Both established massive campaigns of intimidation and slaughter in prison camps immediately on gaining power. The only difference possibly noted is that the Marxist doctrine was “post-national” intending via global domination to eliminate all national identities and Nazi fascism was rooted in German identity and nationalism. Is that the putative metric to measure right/left in common parlance? That the further left one goes the less national and more international in scope is one’s thinking? If so, why is socialism regarded as left leaning and capitalism right? Neither of these notions have much weight on the national/international scales. So. Right/left. What do you think it means? In Chemistry and Physics when you have measurables or metrics that don’t make much sense then your theory, your model is flawed. Right/left seems very flawed as a term of any descriptive value. Does anyone reading this know of any terms which actually are of any valuable use, be it descriptive or otherwise? I would venture that mostly these terms are useless and only used to categorize those with whom your are dealing as “on-my-team” or “horrible other” depending on the particularhandedness you profess to follow.

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  1. Boonton says:

    You’re assuming coherency in terms. I believe the term left and right is traced back to Paris where bohemian artsy types tended to live on the left bank and the ‘conventional’ middle class types lived on the right. This would be like using New Yorkish and Texasish to describe our political spectrum. You’d have a mix of both general principles but also ‘teams’ that would make up the category.

    IMO it’s about as useful as any other sociological category system. Describing masses of people is never going to be as clear cut as describing the behavior of atomic elements.

  2. Mark says:


    IMO it’s about as useful as any other sociological category system

    Which is to say not at all?

    I think its use is all about alienation and inclusion and not much else. “He was/is right wing” (or) “He was/is left wing” is a meaningless statement.

  3. Mark says:

    Stalin and Hitler should be the most extreme examples of left/right respectively. What feature distinguishes their particular handedness? It’s not autocracy? It’s not government control of commerce? What? Nationalism?